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Opening Day is also distinctly American

In a region of the country where major league baseball registers so little interest that one, even if he or she wished to, cannot purchase Major League Ticket from local cable outlets, the time-honored tradition of opening day is easily missed.

But other absolutely distinctly American traditions are also oft overlooked, which does nothing to diminish their essential nature to our culture. For many, Labor Day is little more than a welcome excuse not to labor and Memorial Day is the first right of picnic passage rather than respectful tribute to our nation&

s defenders. But for those who understand the value of these holidays, the participation of others is not the highest priority. Holding on to such distinctly American hallmarks is an important part of our culture and national identity.

Opening Day, while maybe a tad less important than say Martin Luther King Day, absolutely belongs on this list. For more than a century our country has come together in ballparks of grass (or godforsaken astroturf) surrounding diamonds of an unchanging dimension to play a game where the rules remain remarkably unchanged by the advances of time, technology and modernization.

Today, is opening day, a simple cause of celebration. Never mind the first game of the regular season was played last night under chilly Great Lakes rain in a made-for-ESPN contrived opening. Opening day is spring day games, played in parks across the country, beginning on East Coast afternoons and ending under a West Coast sea of lights.

Never mind the most hallowed of records set by Ruth and Aaron are under seige from chemically enhanced frauds who history has finally turned against. Never mind that when a certain leftfielder takes the field in San Francisco he will pretend to resume a chase for the all-time home run title that he will never really own no matter how long he plays or how many home runs he hits.

One man in one era of cheating cannot undo a century of games played by heroes. We survived the Black Sox in 1919, we will survive the needles of the 1990s too. America&

s pastime will remain, blemished to be sure, but unchanged.

Opening Day is simply a day to get away from work, if only for a few minutes, watch a pitch and be a kid again.

What better holiday can one ask for?